o ft- >3 i. •sj ?: ks ^ £ ^ e> 4/J O Abraham Lincoln's Contemporaries Zachary Taylor Excerpts from newspapers and other sources From the files of the Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection 1 1 Zoo1,o'xS . o3lo/ -„ T ,, 'I "" • 6A TORT WAYNE NEWS-SENTINEL Sat., June 15, 1891 Author suspects presidential poisoning LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — The crypt of Zachary Tay- lor will be opened Monday to check out an author's theory that the 12th U.S. president was poisoned. Taylor's cause of death was listed as gastroen- teritis fol- lowing his sudden ill- ness and death al- most 141 Taylor > e <^°- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs gave approval yester- day for Jefferson County Cor- oner Richard Greathouse to open the crypt in the Zachary Taylor National Cemetery that contains the remains of Taylor and his wife, Margaret. Clara Rising of Holder, Fla., who is writing a book about Taylor, planned to be present when Greathouse removes a sample of Taylor's remains for analysis. Dr. William Maples, a forensic anthropologist at the University of Florida in Gain- esville who specializes in skel- etal remains, also is expected to be on hand. He believes Taylor's symptoms were con- sistent with arsenic poisoning. If Taylor's death turns out to be a homicide, he would displace Abraham Lincoln, the nation's 16th president, as the first American president known to be assassinated. But Dr. Elbert B. Smith, professor emeritus of the Uni- versity of Maryland Depart- ment of History, said he'd be "shocked and astounded" if there was evidence that Tay- lor was poisoned. Taylor died of gastroen- teritis, which became acute because of malpractice by his physicians, Smith said. The author of the recent book, "The Presidencies of Zachary Taylor and Millard Fillmore," Smith said there would have been no motive or opportunity to kill Taylor. Rising said other political leaders wanted to get rid of Taylor because he opposed extending slavery into lands the United States acquired after the Mexican War. "I truly believe that if this man had lived, he may have been able to prevent the Civil War," Rising said. en 3<Q 3-3 > ~2 5 r- -, — I m - • ^ *; S Q o i S» o i- - P«< C 5 o ft < > 7s CD CD < _ ^ CO c CD 0) CD «— ► CO o o 3 CD •-♦■ CD en AP LASERPHOTO 1850 death probed The crypt of Zachary Taylor will be opened Monday to test an author's theory that the 12th president was assassin- ated with poisoned fruit 141 years ago because of his opposition to the spread of slavery. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs granted approval Friday for a coroner to open the crypt in the Zachary Taylor National Cem- etery in Louisville, Ky., to see whether there's any trace of poison by analyzing a piece of hair, fingernail or bone. At the coroner's side will be author Clara Rising. Back to the Future, again. k r fi t^+J\9^*JK*^fi*<j*J\*+JKj*.t i + >»,». » k> nA\M,^AI^M^44 %%%\\VV^ . ^...^^^lik^^iito^ ^f t t ii ^ i i' i ii yi ^ri i* i-tt ii ri^ * rtato»*r»>*MM iii • niiiir"— ■ ii^ihjfc. Turned Over in His Grave i When William Shakespeare was entombed 375 years ago, a bit of doggerel •** the playwright's work, but not up to his usual standard — was inscribed on the stone. "Good friend for Jesus' sake forbear / To dig the dust enclosed here. / Blest be the man that spares these stones, / And curst be he that moves my bones." So far, despite countless pleas from people with a point to prove, nobody has. President Zachary Taylor should have been so foresighted. President Taylor died on July 9, 1850, after overexerting himself at the cornerstone-laying of the Washington Monument, overeating iced cher- ries and ice milk and suffering the "cures" of several doctors. That, at least, is the official story and the one believed by most historians. But not by Clara Rising, a former humanities professor at the University of Florida. Ms. Rising, who is working on a book about Taylor, believes America's 12th President was the first to be assassinated. Having been told by a pathologist that Taylor's symptoms were similar to those of arsenic poisoning, Ms. Rising persuaded" the county coroner, Dr. Richard Greathouse, to issue an exhumation order. The Department of Veterans Affairs, which runs the Kentucky ceme- tery where Taylor is buried, quickly complied. That's all it took for a sadly crumpled coffin, shrouded in a badly folded flag, to be removed from the crypt in which it was placed 141 years ago. If arsenic is indeed present, it could be from the doctors' concoctions or embalming fluid. If there was a crime, the clues are long since lost. Never mind. Dr. Greathouse is "thrilled" by his participa- tion, and Ms. Rising speaks of solving what she says could become one of the strangest murder myster- ies in American history. Sometimes there are good reasons for tamper- ing with a grave. Serious historical evidence estab- lishing the possibility that President Taylor was assassinated would be one. But Ms. Rising has produced no such evidence, only a hypothesis for which she found an eager collaborator. Perhaps there are secrets to be found in what was left of President Taylor, who was returned to his crypt on the evening after his exhumation. All that's been revealed so far, however, is a cavalier contempt for the dead. I Observer RUSSELL BAKER* »• Grave Confounded After Bing Crosby died his son Gary published a book saying his dad had been a truly terrible father. This prompted Bob Hope to observe, "It's not even safe to die anymore." Zachary Taylor, former President of the United States, dead since 1850, might have said, "Bob never spoke a truer line," had he been capable of issuing a press release when the knock came at his mausoleum door the other day. He was about to be hauled out for further study. Someone writing a book suspected he may have been poisoned, so an obliging Is nobody safe from science? coroner had agreed to subject him to the indignities modern science is uniquely qualified to inflict. This follows by only a few months a decision to let scientists have a crack at cloning some Abraham Lincoln cells so they can learn whether the Great Emancipator suffered from a disease nobody even knew about in Lincoln's time: something that has to do with making people tall, gangling and loose-limbed. It's tempting to justify this by tell- ing the scientists, "Find out what disease Lincoln had and send some to all our Presidents." Alas, however, knowing science's mad-doctorish passion to make the 150-year-old hu- man a commonplace, we can be sure that the knowledge would not be used to improve Presidents but to wipe out a potentially invaluable disease. Is nobody safe from a prying sci- ence driven by righteous curiosity? One of the few consolations of the grave used to be that you could take your secrets there with the certainty that they would be safe from busy- bodies. Its power to make secrecy eternal helped people keep life in per- spective. One stood beside the grave while clergy uttered the closing words, and one of the thoughts that ran through your mind was: "Now I'll never know ..." After awhile it seemed not so im- portant that you could never know, and as time did its work you realized that one of life's conditions was that /ou would never be allowed to know is much as you wanted to know. Life urrounded us with mysteries, which could be maddening unless you re- laxed and enjoyed the way they en- riched life's texture. Solve a mystery, it becomes a bore. As Edmund Wilson asked of Agatha Christie's whodunnit: "Who Cares Who Killed Roger Ackroyd?" Some mysteries enchant us so intensely that we reject any evidence that would deprive us of the pleasure of their company. A hundred years from now Americans will still be arguing whether Lee Harvey Oswald did it all by himself, or at all. The impulse to take the fun out of life by solving all the mysteries is as old as Adam. What's new is the scien- tific skill we can now apply to the job. As it increases, the wretched dead will have more and more reason to lie uneasy in their graves awaiting the dreadful knock which signals that the lab boys have arrived. "Aha, my good man, we have come for your secrets. No use making a fuss about it. And don't think you can hold anything back. Nowadays we have ways of making you talk." Disturbing dead Presidents to sat- isfy modern curiosity is barbaric enough now when inquisitive science can examine them only for problems like arsenic and loose-limb disease. Imagine the complications when sci- ence perfects methods to solve more complex mysteries. In recent years, for instance, some people have insisted that Lincoln, de- spite the superficial evidence (the Civil War, the Emancipation Procla- mation, etc.) was, in fact, actually a racist. At present scientists cloning Lin- coln's cells may be able to find dis- eases he didn't know he had. They will assure you, however, that they will never be able to clone a complete Lincoln which can be strapped to a lie detector and examined for inner feel- ings of bigotry. They always laugh and call such suggestions "Buck Rogers stuff." Then they do it all: space stations, spliced genes in pig blood, the full Buck Rogers/Doctor Huer bonanza. Poor old Abe. I can see him already cloned, strapped to the machine, Pen- tagon security experts watching the needles jump. "Have you been cloned, Mr. Lin- coln?" "I have indeed, gentlemen." "All right; Lincoln. Give it to us straight from the shoulder: You're a racist, aren't you?" In the immortal words of Fats Wal- ler, "Mercy!" D .Ari^MMifc**MMM*a*XM«Ul •"• ■**< -»«"»i...pi«j, : :m'mvt «V- . vT/i«, LYNCH FOR THE JOURNAL-GAZETTE Well, there's no arsenic in Zachary Taylor's bones, but it's the 150-year-old bottle of Kentucky bourbon we found in his casket that we'd like to keep secret. fl| V,.. i - *t-. Comment The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette Tuesday, June 25, 1991 5A Taylor's death more than a footnote to history By MARTIN D. TULL Al Was Zachary Taylor murdered? Did a dastardly assassin poison him with arsenic- laden fruit, thereby causing his death July 9, 1850? Apparently Dr. William Maples, a foren- sic anthropologist, believes this might be the case. He received permission to remove samples of Taylor's remains for an analysis in an attempt to validate this claim. Newspaper reports have made much of the fact that history books would have to be rewritten should Taylor's death be con- firmed a homocide because he, and not our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln, would then be the first chief executive assassinated. However, while this bit of trivia would need correcting, Taylor's death in 1850 had a much greater impact on the history of the United States. Showdown on slavery In late 1849 and 1850, a controversy erupted over the new territories obtained from Mexico as a result of the Mexican War — the so-called Mexican Cession. This included present-day California, Nevada, Utah. Arizona, New Mexico and parts of Colorado and Wyoming. Southerners were upset because Califor- nia had adopted. late in 1849, a constitution as a free state and sought admission into the union. This threatened the balance in the Senate between the free and slave states. Although a southerner by birth (from Virginia) and the owner of more than 100 slaves. President Taylor strongly supported California's admission. However, Congress did not act. But other problems also existed. Fearing New Mexico would follow California's example, Texas, a slave state, claimed a huge area that was about half of New Mexico. Tensions grew, and it appeared as if Texas might use force to make its point. Concerns also were heard regarding the disposition of the rest of the Mexican Ces- sion. Would it be free or slave? To resolve these issues, the elder states- men of that day produced a series of bills. Henry Clay, Daniel Webster and Stephen Douglas were primarily responsible for this work, which came to be known collectively as the Compromise of 1850. Actually five separate bills, these compromise measures provided for the following: California was to become a free state. The rest of the Mexican Cession was formed into the territories of New Mexico and Utah without restriction as to slavery — popular sovereignty would prevail. The territory in dispute between Texas and New Mexico was given to the latter, and Texas was paid J10 million in compensation. The slave trade (but not slavery) was abolished in Washington, D.C. And a more stringent fugutive slave law was to be enacted. Zachary Taylor accepted the California provision but rejected those aspects of the compromise favorable to the South. In the meantime (June 3-12, 1850) a group of dissatisfied southerners from nine states met at Nashville, Tenn. — The Nash- ville Convention — "to devise and adopt some mode of resistance" to northern aggressions. Meeting prior to the resolution of the issues with the Compromise of 1850, they offered solutions designed to protect their interests. But rumbles of discontent and disquieting talk of secession were also heard. Argument academic With the death of Zachary Taylor July 9, 1850, the situation changed drastically. (Taylor had attended outdoor festivities at the Washington Monument July 4, where he sat through two hours of speeches under a blazing sun. Reiurning to the White SUT*€RS FOR THE ORLANDO SENTiNa House, he wolfed down some cherries and a pitcher of cold milk. He developed what the doctors diagnosed as cholera morbus, a gastrointestinal upset, from which he never recovered.) Taylor's successor, Millard Fillmore, had presided over the great Senate debate in his role as vice president. He informed Taylor that in case of a deadlock, he was pre- pared to cast the tie-breaking vote in favor of the five bills. This was not because of hostility to the administration, Fillmore explained, but because he believed it was in the nation's best interest. So, with Fill- more now president, passage of the Com- promise of 1850 became a foregone conclusion. There is little doubt Taylor would have vetoed the compromise had he lived. This would have ied to increased sectional ten- sion and probably war. In fact, no less a contemporary figure than Daniel Webster declared he was convinced that Taylor's death prevented the outbreak of war in 1850. South might have won Suppose Taylor had lived. What would have been the consequence of a violent showdown in 1850? The South would have benefited to an appreciable degree. Time was on the side of the North. With every passing decade, the North gained in popula- tion and wealth — crops, factories, foun- dries, ships and railroads. Delay also added to the moral strength of the North — to its will to fight for the Union. So the decade of the 1850s gave the North time to accumulate the physical and moral strength that gave it the edge when the war finally erupted. As historian Thomas A. Bailey has noted: "Thus the Compromise of 1850, from one point of view, won the Civil War for the union." And whether he was assassinated or died because of his own lack of good judg- ment, this is the significance of Zachary Taylor's death in 1850. Martin D. Tullai is chairman of the history department at St. Paul's School in Brook- landville, Md. :' Posthumous probe proceeds Tests to illuminate or eliminate president's poisoning LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Applying high technology to unlock a mystery from the 19th century, scientists bombarded President Zachary Taylor's remains with neu- trons and analyzed them with com- puters to learn whether he was poisoned. Jefferson County Coroner Richard Greathouse and George Nichols, Kentucky medical exam- iner, were scheduled to announce their findings today. Remains of the 12th president, including hair, bone scrapings and fingernails, were analyzed for arse- nic in Louisville, Ky. and at the nation's largest research reactor in Oak Ridge, Tenn., to test an author's theory about Taylor's death. Clara Rising, who has researched a book on Taylor, has theorized he was poisoned for Taylor opposing the spread of slav- ery into the Southwest. Among those she has pro- posed as sus- pects are Sen. Henry Clay of Kentucky and Millard Fill- more, who as vice president succeeded Taylor. Taylor fell ill after attending the July 4, 1850, dedication of the Washington Monument and died a few days later of what were thought to be natural causes. Gas- troenteritis was listed as the cause of death. Rising and others have said Tay- lor's symptoms resembled those of arsenic poisoning. They speculated that the 65-year-old Taylor was poisoned by arsenic put in fruit he ate. Rising agreed to pay the $1,200 for an exhumation, and on June 17 Taylor's crypt in Louisville was opened and samples were taken. The samples were dissolved in acid and put through other pro- cesses so they could be subjected to a spectrograph, a device to separate light given off by a substance into a pattern of colors. No two materials have the same spectrum. In another test, samples were loaded into tiny containers and sent through the Oak Ridge National Laboratory's 85-megawatt High Flux Isotope Reactor. There, the samples were bom- barded with neutrons for one minute. Later, the gamma rays given off by sample will be ana- lyzed by computer. ■—*"—■ •"■'fi^Mrlm u ti di i A , i t f .n ^ m-,.^^— ^...i.. J .^.v,.... J .,.qJili.;.jL,. ,.:,.,_., '--y-n - ii tiumummtmmmmm ■Pippip yi l ^iiii i iiw M ■ ■ ii i ^mwiium ji f iiin nm iiiHBMim n — i n I « i i | i m i i i ii ii i 111 ii i jy^%^^»<py#fN^N> l| iN F l l #^ i' M l V%% % % %" f ' i' # < " W PINM NMNNWIto % * # # # # ##> ww ^ VLS/LETTERS Thursday, july 4, mi Scandal and the Heat Did Zachary Taylor In To the Editor: President Zachary Taylor did not die of natural causes as you report June 27. As Samuel Eliot Morison puts it in his "Oxford History of the American People," he died of a "com- bination of official scandals, Wash- ington heat and doctors." After learning of a scandal in which his Secretary of War made a fortune, "Old Rough and Ready" was in a depressed state on the Fourth of July 1850, when he was subjected to two hours of oratory in the hot Washing- ton sun. He attempted to cool off by consuming huge amounts of cucum- bers and iced milk. In the unhealthy climate of Washington, with its open sewers and flies, Taylor came down with cholera morbus, or acute gastro- enteritis as it is now called. Morison believed that Taylor "would probably have recovered if left alone." Fat chance for a Presi- dent. The capital physician, assisted by a Baltimore quack, performed what some might consider an assassi- nation. As Morison writes, they "drugged him with ipecac, calomel, opium and quinine (at 40 grains a whack), and bled and blistered him too. On July 9 he gave up the ghost." Who wouldn't? Jim Sampas New York, June 27, 1991 • Foul Play Suspected To the Editor: Re "President Zachary Taylor's Body to be Tested for Signs of Ar- senic" (front page, June 15). In August 1871, Charles Francis Hall, an American Arctic explorer, pushed his vessel Polaris into what he called the Lincoln Sea for a farthest- north record. In the winter that fol- lowed, Hall died suddenly; many of his crew were disaffected and muti- nous, and poisoning seemed likely. Nearly a century later, Chauncey Loomis, Hall's biographer, and a pa- thologist exhumed Hall's body from its Arctic grave and took tissue sam- ples to the United States for analysis. They proved heavily contaminated with arsenic, though Hall's remains, unlike President Taylor's, had not been embalmed and contaminated with undertaker's arsenic. However, since arsenic was a sta- ple of the Victorian pharmacopeia, traces of it detected in a 19th-century corpse do not, alas, necessarily indi- cate foul play. In both Hall's and the President's cases, arsenic dosage may well have been self-adminis- tered. John Maxtone-Graham New York, June 15, 1991 • Buchanan's Complaint To the Editor: Tests of the White House drinking water to determine the .cause of the autoimmune disorders afflicting President and Mrs. Bush, as well as their dog Millie, are not a first in United States history. Such a problem occurred before, killing the nephew of one of President Bush's predecessors -Z and nearly claiming the chief execu- »* trye himself as he prepared to com- . mit nearly one-third of the United " States Army against a powerful ".- desert ruler. "^ In the case of James Buchanan, the; «■* affliction was not Graves' disease but Z~ a debilitating gastrointestinal coach- \., tion, probably paratyphoid fever. The: •>* source was most likely contaminated water at the National Hotel, a few blocks from the White House, where * President-elect Buchanan stayed be- . « fore inauguration. For Buchanan — then nearly 66, but not as fit as President Bush at the same age — the result was devastat- ing, and he was nearly unable to attend his own inauguration on March 4, 1857. During the opening weeks of his Administration, Buchanan struggled - to regain his health while making a series of major but catastrophic deci- sions: his reaction to the Supreme ' - Court's ruling in the Dred Scott case; his handling of civil upheaval in the Kansas Territory, and his suppres- sion of a perceived Mormon rebellion in the neighboring Utah Territory. In the Utah episode, Federal troops were committed by May 1857 in what grew into a disastrous two-brigade, 10-regiment affair that was the na- tion's most extensive and expensive military undertaking between the Mexican and Civil wars. Clearly, President Bush's fitness and medical care are much superior to those of his predecessors. Let us hope as well that Washington's water supply — notoriously unappealing for generations — is also up to the chal- lenge. William P. MacKinnon Birmingham, Mich., June 11, 1991 The writer is an organizer of a confer- ence at Franklin & Marshall and Dickinson colleges on Buchanan.